Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

Pen and ink is a medium with a long history, but despite some modern revival in interest (as evidenced by the current internet-wide exercise of Inktober), its importance has faded from its time as a major drawing medium for Renaissance and Baroque masters, and its strong popularity as a medium for illustration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Pen and ink is a medium with unique characteristics — in linearity, texture and tone — that have a visual charm shared only with similar techniques in printmaking.

From the waning years of the medium’s heyday as a staple of book illustration, we have a classic volume that is simply the best book on pen and ink I’ve ever encountered: Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

The original version of the book was published in 1930 as Drawing with Pen and Ink, and versions of that volume are still available. The edition titled Rendering in Pen and Ink was created in 1976, leaving out a few of the original illustrations, adding many others and condensing the area devoted to text while enlarging that given to images.

This is a from-the-ground up treatise on drawing with pen and ink, starting with materials, basic marks and methods of making tones — hatching, cross-hatching, stipple and freeform textures — and going on through methods of rendering trees and landscapes, architecture, still life, people and more.

Much emphasis is given to making and controlling tones and suggesting light and shade, something that those learning pen and ink often struggle with, as well as conveying the textures of natural and artificial surfaces.

Many of the illustrations, particular those explaining the basics of ink drawing and rendering, are by Arthur Guptill himself, and he is no slouch at pen drawing. The book is also profusely illustrated with plates by some of the best pen and ink artists from the turn of the 20th century, a high point for the use of pen and ink in books and magazines.

The drawing may strike some as “old fashioned”, in that it has a character of classic illustration — but to others, myself included, this is a Good Thing — a welcome grounding in techniques taken from masters of the medium.

The current 60th Anniversary edition of the book, which is huge, both in page size and number, is available for under $30 on Amazon U.S. For my money, a single chapter would be worth that! (I’ll note that I have an older, well-worn hardbound edition that I’m using for my review, and I can’t speak to the binding and paper quality of the current printing.)

I’ve had the book since I was in my early 20s; I considered it a gem then, and the years have not dimmed my enthusiasm for its value. Rendering in Pen and Ink is highly regarded as a standard must-have book among illustrators and comics artists, but is less well known to other contemporary artists.

There are a lot of books available on drawing in pen and ink, but if you have any interest in working in, and hopefully mastering the medium, this one should be on your shelf.

Eye Candy for Today: John Carlin watercolor portrait miniature

Portrait of a Lady, John Carlin; watercolor on ivory

Portrait of a Lady, John Carlin; watercolor on ivory (detail)

Portrait of a Lady, John Carlin

Watercolor on ivory, roughly 4 x 3 inches (9 x 7 cm); in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It’s possible that this is a grayscale image of a more colorful painting — the Met’s website pages doesn’t comment — but my guess is that it was painted monochromatically.

The portrait is obviously of a real and not idealized person, and sensitively painted in that wonderful drybrush/stipple watercolor technique that was prevalent in the mid to late 19th century.

At that time, it was commonplace to paint small portraits in watercolor on ivory, often in an oval as part of a broach. In this case, the painting is rectangular, but not much larger than an oval might have been.

I find it interesting that the artist has balanced with composition with the edge of a chair and the suggestion of a room corner behind the sitter.

Fred Danziger (update)

Fred Danziger, landscapes and cityscapes

Fred Danziger, landscapes and cityscapes

Originally from Pittsburgh, Fred Danziger is a Philadelphia based painter whose work I have long admired, and who I wrote about previously in 2012.

Danziger’s subject matter ranges from cityscapes, rich with city lights and city dwellers, to contemplative landscapes, so calm as to seem as far away from the bustle of the city as possible. Over his history as a painter, he has also taken on a variety of other subjects and a range of approaches.

All of his work, though, strikes me as a product of focused observation, a keen sense of seeing what’s there, and perhaps through that, what may be hidden past the surface.

I’m particularly drawn to his sometimes large scale portrayals of little areas of the natural world — ripples of rain on the surface of a forest pool, a few leaves floating on a creek, beads of rain clinging to blades of grass or seashells gathered in a subtle circle of light.

His rendering of natural forms is often rich with a variety of colors; reds, greens, oranges, yellows and violets can be seen in a single tree trunk, yet they are handled with such a command of color and value that they read true as naturalistic forms.

I also find that his intimate glimpses of nature hint of the transformative power of quiet contemplation; and somehow, that carries over into his urban scenes, at though the shimmering city lights and movement of the people are just another expression of the natural world.

I’ve seen Danziger’s work in person before, but I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet him a few days ago at the opening of his new solo show at the F.A.N Gallery here in Philadelphia.

He works in gouache as well as in oil, and I had a chance to talk with him about that, as well as about his inspiration for painting subjects in general.

The show is a treat for those in the area who can get to see it, combining some of his larger works, which are often finished to a high degree, with some smaller, more informal plein air pieces, both of the local area and of Maine.

As galleries close and move out of the “Old City” area of Philadelphia that once featured numerous galleries and a thriving artist community, the F.A.N Gallery remains a bastion of exceptional representational art in Philadelphia. (If you can stop in to see the show, climb the little circular staircase to see more of the gallery regulars upstairs.)

Fred Danziger – Recent Work will be on display at the F.A.N. Gallery until October 27th, 2018. During that time the artist will be in the gallery each Saturday from 2-4 pm.

In addition to the selection of Danziger’s work on the gallery’s website, there is an extensive archive of his work on his own website.

Eye Candy for Today: William Holman Hunt watercolor still life

Still Life with Plums, William Holman Hunt, watercolor

Still Life with Plums, William Holman Hunt, watercolor (details)

Still Life with Plums, William Holman Hunt

Watercolor on paper, roughly 12 x 14 inches (30 x 37 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum. (Zoomable and downloadable versions of the image are available on the site.)

A beautiful and sensitively observed still life by the Pre-Raphaelite master. It appears to be done in a watercolor technique that combines the intricate application of drybrush and stipple.

It’s interesting to compare this to the similarly rendered watercolor still life paintings of William Henry Hunt. (As far as I know, the two Victorian painters just have similar names and are not related.)

Russ Kramer

Russ Kramer, marine artist, paintings of historic yacht races

Russ Kramer, marine artist, paintings of historic yacht races

Connecticut based marine artist Russ Kramer focuses much of his work on the drama of historic yacht races, emphasizing the movement of water and vertiginous angles of the boats as they are lifted and tossed by the power of the waves.

He has a touch for rendering roiled water in a way that feels palpable, capturing both its movement and visual texture.

Kramer also finds drama in the play of light on his subjects, enlivening even his portrayals of more sedate harbor scenes.

In addition to the images in his website gallery, you can find additional images of his limited edition prints. There is also a book available that collects some of his work.

[Suggestion courtesy of James Gurney]